How does Steinbeck present Slim as an opposite to Curly? What are the quotes that tells about this?

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junebug614 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley and Slim are two very different characters in Of Mice and Men. Firstly, just picture the images that come to mind when you hear their names. Curley is a short springy image, ready to spring like a coil, symbolizing his short fuse, lack of patience, and overall quick-to-anger personality. Slim, on the other hand, is an image that evokes the picture of length, something long and slender, symbolizing Slim's patience and kindness with the men. 

Though Slim is a tall man, he doesn't rely on his size to control the men he manages out in the grain field. The book states that Slim "dont need to wear no high heeled boots on a grain team" and that his large and lean hands were "delicate in their actions." He is thoughtful and deliberate; he talks to the men and really sees them: when he speaks to George, the text says he looked at George and beyond him. Slim truly understands and empathizes with the men.  Curley on the other hand is described as "handy;" he's a boxer, and a small one at that - an important fact because it gives him an excuse when he doesn't win a fight with a bigger guy. When Candy first meets George and Lennie he says that Curley "ain't givin' nobody a chance." This quote indicates an important difference between Curley and Slim. Curley doesn't give anyone a chance, and Slim does. In fact, when George confesses Lennie's previous issues back in Weed when he was accused of raping a woman, Slim states, "He's a nice fella" and "I can tell he ain't a bit mean." Of course, when Curley meets George and Lennie he is immediately put off by Lennie's size, calling him "the big guy" and targets him throughout the text - he doesn't give Lennie, or anyone, a chance.

Finally, at the end of the novel, when George is forced to kill Lennie to avoid a scary and violent altercation with Curley, Slim is the only one who understands what George really did and why. He says to George, "You hadda George, I swear you hadda." He knows the magnitude of George's action and how upset George must be. Meanwhile, Curley, and the other men, don't understand George's final sacrifice for Lennie. Curley is set off with Carlson, who wonders aloud, "Now what do you suppose is eatin' those guys?" Curley, and really the other men, have difficulty understanding the special bond George and Lennie had, when Slim does. 

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Of Mice and Men

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